This post was originally published on this site

The Welsh/UK Governments ‘rapid review’ of the Swansea City Deal has been published today. The publication of the internal Joint Committee report, led by Pembrokeshire Council is understood to be imminent.The Government report, by Actica Consulting provides, in the usual polite and non-specific terms, a damning list of failure and incompetence and lays the blame on the lead authority, Carmarthenshire Council (responsible for the Regional Office) and the lead chief executive, Mark James. It’s been a shambles. The aim of the report was to try and salvage confidence in the City Deal through recommendations for improvement.

The report, which can be read in full here, makes several recommendations, but first and foremost;

“The most important is that the Regional Office be reconfigured as a Project, Programme and Portfolio Management Team with a strong and independent leadership”

This means that Carmarthenshire Council will be stripped of it’s current position as the lead authority of the City Deal.

The forthcoming retirement of the current ‘leadership’, Mark James is noted, and the inference is clearly made that if he wasn’t retiring, he would be sacked as lead officer.

 “The projects should have been challenged by the Regional Office but they were not. This is we think a window to the source of the real problem – namely the nature of the Regional Office.”

The Council led Regional Office, the report continues, lacks professionalism, independence and the authority, experience and expertise to broker a professional relationship with the government departments.
Key information was missing from the business cases, including the financial implications, delivery, long term benefits and risk assurance. These business cases were then submitted for approval to the Regional Office with key elements missing, and no one seemed to notice, or perhaps care. Due diligence was also sadly, but unsurprisingly, lacking.

The report goes on to say that the ‘project’ led approach has led to stagnation and difficulties as each authority deals with it’s own projects, via the incompetent Regional Office, this infers nothing less than poor governance. It suggests that the City Deal should be reprofiled as a ‘Portfolio’, ie a regional approach with the ability to drop or add projects as circumstances dictate.

The report, reading between the lines, suggests a failure in governance, and a breakdown of trust between the local authorities, a lack of transparency and a failure to communicate. All of which leads to a complete absence of accountability.

These are all the attributes of anything ‘led’ by Mark James, (including the county council itself), who has now been found not to be fit for purpose, and neither has his Regional Office.

Furthermore, and not in the report, is his shady involvement with the key players and dodgy deals of the Wellness Village, let alone the recent revelations concerning his (undeclared) ventures, with the suspended University staff, in Kuwait.

He is a complete liability, and it is interesting to note the difference in this report, to the report from Acuity Legal, Mr James own solicitors, brought in, (unbelievably) for the council’s own review. Despite the difference in remit, the former is objective and independent, the latter is far from independent and reads like a pre-empted defence to criminal allegations.

Last year I suggested that Carmarthenshire Council were unsuitable as the lead authority, and that the appointment of Mark James, as ‘Accountable Officer’ was nothing short of a joke. Seems I had a point.

Details from the Joint Committee’s internal report will be posted here when published.

For numerous posts on the City Deal and the Wellness Village scandal, please search the blog.